Pre-Spill Permit-Approval Pace Will 'Probably Never' Return

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones Newswires), Jan. 13, 2011

The U.S. official in charge of regulating offshore oil drilling said Thursday that the speed with which his agency approves new drilling permits would "probably never" return to the pace seen prior to last year's Deepwater Horizon spill.

In talking with operators of offshore rigs, Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, said he is often asked when the pace of permit approvals will return to what it was before the oil spill began on April 20, 2010. "The honest answer is probably never," Bromwich told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Bromwich did say, however, approvals for new offshore drilling permits are coming, if not at the pace the oil and gas industry would like. "I would be stunned if we waited until the third or fourth quarter" to issue those approvals, he said.

After the Gulf of Mexico spill, Bromwich's agency issued a moratorium on new deep-water drilling permits. It has since lifted that ban, but the oil and gas industry has complained that a de-facto moratorium remains in place as the agency grapples with new safety rules put in place following the spill.

Bromwich said he was committed to providing continuity for industry, "keeping production flowing and keeping people working," but "the fact is we have demanding new requirements and rules that need to be met." He said no further emergency regulations are in the works other than those that have already been announced.

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